Saturday, May 12, 2012

This Year's Route

This year I'm taking a couple of weeks to ride out to the west coast.

I'm taking the big ugly yellow & black GSA 1200 out to ride up the southern part of California PCH1.  I rode it all the way from San Francisco to Eureka a few years ago; this time I'm going from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, including the Big Sur stretch.

Click any picture to enlarge.

Day 1 - Heber, Arizona 5/13

Ready to roll.  Into the rain, at 8:00 in the morning? I got rained on from just north of Santa Fe until where 599 intersects  I-25.

By the time I got to Holbrook, Az, it was 83 degrees.  Check out the Wigwam Motel! Unfortunately, it looked like it was closed.

How about a nice piece of petrified wood?

Or a chair carved out of one of those petrified logs...

For the mere price of  ?

Day 2 - Palm Springs, CA 5/14

So, I got up this morning and it was 54 degrees.  Four hours later it was 107, just east of Indio. 

104 degrees isn't too bad if has found you a cheap room with a pool.  In Palm Springs.

Later at dinner at a restaurant named "Wang's" (appropriately enough). I was sitting at the bar next to a guy trying to impress the guy to his left.  "I'll have another Cosmo???"  Rising inflection.

The food was very good, however.

Long, hot day: 429 miles.

Day 3 - Camarillo, CA 5/15

I left Palm Springs this morning at 9:00, and it was already 87 degrees.  Climbed out of the desert valley on this wonderful twisty road that rose for 50 miles until I was in Idylwild at about 5,000 feet.  You gained elevation so quickly that your ears popped every couple of minutes;  the road is called the Pines to Palms Highway.  I had breakfast on the patio of the first restaurant I came to in Idylwild at 10:00 in the beautiful 70 degree weather.

Continued on up over the mountains before dropping 4,000 feet down back into the vally on the other side.

Twisty mountain road
Eucalyptus fragrance wafts
Watch out for the curves.

Day 4 - Pismo Beach, CA 5/16

I left Camarillo at the crack of 10 this morning and headed up towards Pismo Beach.  After Santa Barbara, the road turned inland and ran through some very pretty hill country, lots of wine growing.  Earlier, I noticed that my route would take my by one of those other Los Alamoses, so I stopped in to check it out.

It turned out to be kind of a sad, decaying tourist town.  Any analogies to that other Los Alamos will be left for the reader to cogitate.

False advetising:  it's just a tacky tourist shop, there was no pub.

I got to Pismo around 3:30.  The temp was 70 degrees and the sun was warm.  I decided to have a private wine and cheese party on the boardwalk.

Tomorrow: Big Sur.

Day 5 - Big Sur, And Find the XLR 650 5/17

Flashing back to yesterday, I was only a couple of hours from my destination of Pismo Beach when I stopped for gas and checked my messages.  It seems that my buddy Rob Kiser who was on his way south to meet me so that we could ride Big Sur together had experienced a little emergency: his Honda XLR650 had just died.  I called him and found out that he was stranded on a remote stretch of road "way out on the boonies".  Imagine that last bit spoken in a Mississippi southern drawl.

Not to worry, he said, a tow truck was on the way to fetch him & the bike.

I got a text from him a few hours later: "the tow truck never showed up".  So I called him again.  It seems that after he realized the tow truck was never coming, he tried to hitch a ride, but nobody wanted to pick up a scruffy looking guy wearing camo pants and army boots carrying a ragged canvas bag full of who knows what.  He finally dragged his bike to the side of the road and laid it down to make it look like he'd crashed, and tricked someone into stopping and then guilt-tripped them in to letting him ride back with them to Monterey or wherever, and they dropped him off at a motel.

"Where's the bike?" I asked.

"Near Lucia, I think."

"Did you get a mile marker?"

"No dude!  I was in the middle of nowhere, out in the boonies!  Can you look for it tomorrow and tell me where it is?"

"Uh, ok.  What do you want me to do if I find it?

"Push it over the cliff!"

Imagine my surprise when I found this poor, sad-looking, lonely, beat-up XLR about three miles north of Lucia.

I swear I could hear little Honda sobs as I drove away, but I learned later that Rob had it picked up later that evening.  So much for riding with LiveWire this trip.

One of the things I enjoy about riding is some of the other riders I meet. I bumped into these guys while checking out the elephant seals on a beach south of Big Sur. They bought me a coffee a bit later up the road.

Check out the elephant seals, there must be a thousand of them basking in the 58 degree  weather. I'm the one in the red sunglasses.

A flowering bush outside my room in Pismo.

Day 6 - Palo Alto, CA 5/18

Not much to say - took a short day riding 81 miles from Monterey to Palo Alto.  Checked in to a really nice hotel called the Riverside, using up some of my free credits.

I walked down to a popular seafood restaurant and was listening to all the Palo Alto locals talk about the Facebook IPO which happened today.  The Indian gentleman gave a Facebook-101 discourse, in which he spewed back every factiod that the media had been reporting all day.

Nice patio area at the hotel.

Baked clams, with bacon!

Day 7 - Napa Valley 5/19

It was a fairly short ride from Palo Alto, up through San Francisco through some of the most incredible traffic to Rhonert Park, just south of Santa Rosa.  I checked in early to the hotel, and then took the most amazing ride over a small mountain pass on this unvelievable twisty, pretty road up, over and down into the Napa Valley.

Eucaplyptus and oak trees lining the road, it smelled wonderful.

Once I got into the Napa Valley: throw a rock, hit a winery.  And the traffic was pretty special too.

I decided to drop into the V. Sattui winery for a tasting.  It turned out to be a Disneyland-scale operation.  There must have been 2 - 3 thousand people there!

Pretty good wine, too, but I wasn't going to buy a $65 bottle of their 2006 cab (10 bottle limit for shiping).

Whatever real estate that doesn't have a winery on it, has grapes growing on it.

Day 8 - Bishop, CA 5/20

I rode 370 miles from Rohnert Park to Bishop, CA today.  There was supurb riding in the part of Yosemite I picked to ride through.  My route took me over Sonora Pass, at about 9,400 feet.  Before I got there, there was this scenic spot.

Right after this shot, the really steep, twisty road over Sonora Pass started.  I wanted to stop and take a few pictures, like one of the sign just after the pass that warned "25% grade ahead", but I was too busy.  That tall, heavy yellow GS monster of mine really does seem to enjoy being thrown through the turns.  They would have been metal-dragging turns, if it were possible to drag metal on that bike.

I did reward myself in Bridgport later, though.

Hey, check out these California gas prices!

Day 9 - Caliente, Nevada 5/21

What happens when a flying ant tries to outrun a biker:

I thought I was going to run out of gas about 2/3 of the way to Caliente this afternoon.  A headwind came up about 10 miles after the sign that said "No gas for 163 miles" and knocked the mileage way down.  So I did something nearly unheard of for me: I slowed down to about 52 mph where the bike got about 52 mpg in 5th gear.

With still about 90 miles to go to Caliente, I came upon Rachel, NV, and this:

So I did the only reasonable thing: I stopped inn for an ale.  Fun place, worth a visit back there some day.

Shortly after leaving the Little A'le'Inn, I glanced to my right & thought I saw something in the rocks.

I did: little CrowAliens!

Hot, hungry, thirsty crow aliens.  Click the picture for a larger image.

So I finally got to Caliente at about 4:00, and quickly realized that there does not seem to be much to recommend Caliente.  I guess every road trip needs at least one place like that...

Day 10 - Escalante, Ut 5/22

Poor Caliente Nevada really does not have much going for it. It's just a sad little one-casino, one-gas station, three-motel town. I was happy to pull out of there this morning.

Today was my day to tour Mormon polygamy country - I'd planned my route to take me through Hildale, Utah, and its sister city just across the border: Colorado City, Arizona.  Colorado City was home to Warren Jeffs, who was the former leader of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Church Mormon sect/cult. Jeffs is now serving time in federal prison for multiple child rape episodes that he committed while following the practices of his FLDS church.

Before I got there though, I passed by another Mormon historical site near St. George: The Mountain Meadows Massacre monument.

This site commemorates an episode that occurred in 1857 in which a Mormon militia got dressed up as indiginous Paiute Indians and killed 140 newcomer Mormon immigrants who were planning to settle in the area.  The local Mormons wanted to keep the area for themselves, apparently, and by dressing as Paiutes they tried to shift the blame on to the heathens.  (Yes, I said "heathens".  Mormon doctrine claims that American Indians are "heathens". Go figure.)

There have been several attempts over the years by the Mormon church to publish revisionist versions of the MMM in which the Indians were the bad guys, but these versions haven't gained any traction outside of Utah.

On to Colorado City -- what a creepy little place it turned out to be. Most of the town consists of these large two-story homes that look like 20 or 30 people could live in them.  And they are all surrounded by walls, real unfriendly-like.  The houses all look like they were built from materials scavanged from the dump.

Even more bizarre are the dozens of huge monstrosities that never got finished.

All in all, Colorado City is a creepy little place, with a very unhealthy vibe. And judging by the sour, glowering expressions passers-by gave me, it is clearly not Mayberry, RFD.

The Last Two Days, 5/23 - 5/24

Some miscellaneous pics from the ride over from Escalante, UT & Cortez, CO and back home.  A shade over 3,000 miles, two weeks, 5 states, and a couple of beers...